Assignment On Social Psychological Theories

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Assignment On Social Psychological Theories

Assignment On Social Psychological Theories


Assignment On Social Psychological Theories

tutions and folkways, anthropologists ventured into remote areas of the world where they found evidence that human beings are almost infinitely malleable. According to these new social sciences, man is chiefly a product of the society in which he lives. His personality is social rather than biological.

Gradually, these burgeoning social and cultural doctrines began to seep into psychology and psychoanalysis and to erode the nativistic and physicalistic foundations of these sciences. A number of followers of Freud who became dissatisfied with his myopia regarding the so- cial conditioners of personality withdrew their allegiance from clas- sical psychoanalysis and began to refashion psychoanalytic theory along lines dictated by the new orientation developed by the social sciences. Among those who provided psychoanalytic theory with the twentieth century look of social psychology are the four people whose ideas form the content of the present chapter—Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, and Harry Stack Sullivan. Of these four, Al- fred Adler may be regarded as the ancestral figure of the “new social psychological look” because as early as 1911 he broke with Freud over the issue of sexuality, and proceeded to develop a theory in which social interest and a striving for superiority became two of its most substantial conceptual pillars. Later, Horney and Fromm took up the cudgels against the strong instinctivist orientation of psychoanalysis and insisted upon the relevance of social psychological variables for personality theory. Finally, Harry Stack Sullivan in his theory of in- terpersonal relations consolidated the position of a personality theory grounded in social processes. Although each of the theories has its own distinctive assumptions and concepts, there are numerous paral- lels among them which have been pointed out by various writers (James, 1947; Ruth Munroe, 1955; and H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, 1956).

Our choice of the major figure for this chapter, Harry Stack Sul- livan, is dictated primarily by our belief that he brought his ideas to a higher level of conceptualization and consequently has been a more pervasively influential theorist. Sullivan was considerably more inde- pendent of prevailing psychoanalytic doctrines; although he earlier used the Freudian framework, in his later work he developed a theo- retical system which deviated markedly from the Freudian one. He was profoundly influenced by anthropology and social psychology. Both Horney and Fromm, on the other hand, kept well within the province of psychoanalysis in their thinking; Adler, although a sepa- ratist from the Freudian school, continued to show the impact of his

116 Theories of Personality

early association with Freud throughout his life. Homey and Fromm are usually referred to as revisionists or neo-Freudians. Neither of them engaged in developing a new theory of personality; rather they regarded themselves as renovators and elaboraters of an old theory. Sullivan was much more of an innovator. He was a highly original thinker who attracted a large group of devoted disciples and devel- oped what is sometimes called a new school of psychiatry.


Alfred Adler was born in Vienna in 1870 of a middle-class family and died in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1937 while on a lecture tour. He received a medical degree in 1895 from the University of Vienna. At first he specialized in ophthalmology and then, after a period of prac- tice in general medicine, he became a psychiatrist. He was one of the charter members of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and later its president. However, Adler soon began to develop ideas which were at variance with those of Freud and others in the Vienna So- ciety, and when these differences became acute he was asked to pre- sent his views to the society. This he did in 1911 and as a conse- quence of the vehement criticism and denunciation of Adler’s posi- tion by other members of the society, Adler resigned as president and a few months later terminated his connection with Freudian psycho- analysis (Colby, 1951; Jones, 1955; H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, 1956).

Assignment On Social Psychological Theories

He then formed his own group, which came to be known as In- dividual Psychology and which attracted followers throughout the world. During the First World War, Adler served as a physician in the Austrian army and after the war he became interested in child guidance and established the first guidance clinics in connection with the Viennese school system. He also inspired the establishment of an experimental school in Vienna which applied his theories of edu- cation.

In 1935 Adler settled in the United States where he continued his practice as a psychiatrist and served as Professor of Medical Psy- chology at the Long Island College of Medicine. Adler was a pro- lific writer and published a hundred books and articles during his lifetime. The practice and theory of individual psychology (1927) is probably the best introduction to Adler’s theory of personality- Shorter digests of Adler’s views appear in the Psychologies of 1930 (1930) and in the International Journal of Individual Psychology (1935). Heinz and Rowena Ansbacher recently edited and anno-

Social Psychological Theories 117

tated an extensive selection of passages from Adler’s writings (1956) which is the best single source of information about Adler’s Indi- vidual Psychology. Phyllis Bottome has written a book-length biog- raphy of Adler (1939). Adler’s ideas are promulgated in the United States by the American Society of Individual Psychology with branches in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles and through its journal, The American Journal of Individual Psychology.

In sharp contrast to Freud’s major assumption that man’s behavior is motivated by inborn instincts and Jung’s principal axiom that man’s conduct is governed by inborn archetypes, Adler assumed that man is motivated primarily by social urges. Man is, according to Adler, inherently a social being. He relates himself to other people, en- gages in co-operative social activities, places social welfare above sel- fish interest, and acquires a style of life which is predominantly so- cial in orientation. Adler did not say that man becomes socialized merely by being exposed to social processes; social interest is inborn although the specific types of relationships with people and social in- stitutions which develop are determined by the nature of the society into which a person is born. In one sense, then, Adler is just as bio- logical in his viewpoint as are Freud and Jung. All three assume that man has an inherent nature which shapes his personality. Freud emphasized sex, Jung emphasized primordial thought patterns, and Adler stressed social interest. This emphasis upon the social deter- minants of behavior which had been overlooked or minimized by Freud and Jung is probably Adler’s greatest contribution to psycho- logical theory. It turned the attention of psychologists to the impor- tance of social variables and helped to develop the field of social psy- chology at a time when social psychology needed encouragement and support, especially from the ranks of psychoanalysis.

Adler’s second major contribution to personality theory is his con- cept of the creative self. Unlike Freud’s ego which consists of a group of psychological processes serving the ends of inborn instincts, Alder’s self is a highly personalized, subjective system which inter- prets and makes meaningful the experiences of the organism. More- over, it searches for experiences which will aid in fulfilling the per- son’s unique style of life; if these experiences are not to be found in the world the self tries to create them. This concept of a creative self was new to psychoanalytic theory and it helped to compensate for the extreme “objectivism” of classical psychoanalysis, which relied almost entirely upon biological needs and external stimuli to account for the dynamics of personality. As we shall see in other chapters,

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